Hector Badillo: Politician who became the first Puerto Rican-born US congressman and ran for mayor of New York City


Click to follow

Herman Badillo was a New York City politician who became the first person born in Puerto Rico to become a US congressman. Puerto Rico has been a US territory for 115 years, and its people have been American citizens since 1917.

However, people on the island are barred from voting in US presidential elections and have no representation in the Senate and only limited representation in the House of Representatives.

In Congress, Badillo concentrated on the problems of inner cities and urged federal help for poor members of minority groups. He also championed the rights of Puerto Ricans, noting in 1971 that they were subject to the military draft but couldn’t get many federal social benefits. He served in the House of Representatives from 1971 to 1977, when he resigned to become a deputy mayor during Ed Koch’s first mayoral term. In 2001 he waged a bitter primary election campaign against Michael Bloomberg for the Republican mayoral nomination. Like Bloomberg, he was by then a former Democrat; it was one of several failed runs to become New York City mayor.

He was born in 1929, in Caguas, Puerto Rico. His parents died in a 1934 tuberculosis epidemic and he went to New York with an aunt in 1941. He attended public schools, City College of New York and earned a law degree at Brooklyn Law School. He started work as a city official in 1962 and his first elected position was Bronx borough president from 1965 to 1969.

“He was the first major Latino to be elected,” said his long-standing friend, the political consultant George Arzt. “He was a true pioneer of the city.”

Herman Badillo, politician: born Caguas, Puerto Rico 21 August 1929; twice married (one son); died 3 December 2014.